Andrew College A.D. and women's basketball coach Mike Riffe has the Lady Tigers off to an 8-4 start one season after they won just 11 games all season.
CUTHBERT -- Even before his season opener tipped off, Mike Riffe knew this season was going to be special.
The Andrew College women's basketball team is now 12 games in, and the expectations of its head coach are even higher.
"This group is a really fun group to be around and they work really hard," said Riffe, whose team has started the season with an 8-4 record -- by far the best start since the program was reintroduced in 2006 after a four-year hiatus. "They are buying into what we are preaching."
On Monday, the Lady Tigers fell to 0-2 in Region XVII play with a 61-55 loss to South Georgia Tech, but Riffe said Wednesday his team was still able to take something away from the game, despite the setback.
"Even though we lost to South Georgia Tech, (SGT is) one of the elite teams in the conference," said Riffe, whose Lady Tigers finished 11-20 last season. "Our girls discovered that they can play with the good teams. It's just a maturation process."
Andrew's program has steadily improved since its resurrection five years ago, and it has now developed into one that is no longer overlooked in the region, largely because of the sophomore leadership that is sprinkled throughout the Lady Tigers' roster. Riffe, who is also Andrew's A.D., pulling double duty as the basketball coach, has seven sophomores and a host of talented freshmen who have the Lady Tigers averaging more than 70 points per game and beating opponents by an average of 10 points per game.
Right at the heart of Andrew's turnaround are sophomore captains Kellie Bacon, Blair Savelli and Ashley Reece.
"Kellie is the point guard and she pretty much gets things going," Riffe said. "Ashley plays (power forward), but she is a main ball handler and distributes the ball as well as anybody I have ever seen. And Blair is our inside player. She is our tallest player, but she can shoot outside, as well, and take the ball to the hole."
Other key players for Andrew are sophomores Jebreal Alford, who averages 14 points and close to 11 rebounds per game, and Angel Penn, who is also averaging double figure points per game.
The Lady Tigers are at home three times in the next week, including tonight against Southern Crescent -- a team that Andrew defeated by 30 points earlier this season. They will then host West Georgia Tech -- another team Andrew smashed already this season -- on Saturday before Darton comes to town Sunday. And Riffe is looking forward to that matchup against the Lady Cavs, which could give the Lady Tigers their first region victory.
"It's going to let us know where we are," Riffe said. "Coach (Lea Henry) is doing a great job over there (at Darton), and they are putting a lot of points up. It will be a benchmark for us."
LADY JETS TRYING TO REBOUND AFTER FORFEITS: The South Georgia Tech women's basketball team started its season off with a 4-2 record and all kinds of momentum.
Then coach Brandan Harrell got the news that all of those games -- including the wins against Tallahassee Community College, Jacksonville, Clinton and Middle Georgia Tech -- would be forfeited because one of his players was academically ineligible.
Ca'Nesha Coley will be able to play next semester, Harrell said Wednesday, but the six games she appeared in at the beginning of the year will now appear as losses for the Lady Jets.
"We told (the players) that on paper those games may not count, but that doesn't take away what we learned in those games and the good things that we did," Harrell said. "It doesn't take away the teaching moments. It stings a little because we play the game to try to win. But at the end of the day, our goal is to compete for the conference championship."
Fortunately for Harrell, none of those forfeited games were Region XVII contests. And since those forfeits were announced, the Lady Jets are 4-0 overall and 2-0 in region play after their 84-26 victory against Chattahoochee Tech on Wednesday, which Harrell said was the first time the Lady Jets "played like they were capable of playing."
In the 58-point blowout, four South Georgia Tech players scored in double digits. Shanique Holston had 26 points and 10 rebounds, Shontae McCall had 23 points and 15 rebounds, Manon Cherubini had 13 points and Taj Westbrook had 10 points. The Lady Jets had several contribute Wednesday, but Harrell said his team's biggest weakness is its depth, especially with the loss of Coley.
"If we lose a kid to injury or if we lose a kid to grades or if we lose a kid because she just wants to go home, that could devastate our whole season," Harrell said.
The Lady Jets (4-6) are off until next Wednesday when they travel to Swainsboro to face conference foe East Georgia.
SGT MEN WIN CONFERENCE OPENER: The Jets opened up their Region XVII schedule Wednesday with a 64-60 victory against a talented Chattahoochee Tech team that is led by 6-foot-11 Asauhn Dixon-Tatum, who has already committed to play for Auburn next season.
The Jets (5-4) held Dixon-Tatum, a graduate of Highland High School (Ind.), to just seven points and played lock-down defense against the Eagles (7-2), who entered the game averaging 90 points per game.
"It's probably our first quality win," Jets coach Steven Wright said. "We have played some tough competition and have come out on the losing end, including getting beat by 25 on Saturday against Pensacola (Fla.) State. We worked on some things in the last couple of days, and this was a quality win for us. It's nice to start the conference with a win."
South Georgia Tech was led by Phillip Flowers (15 points, eight rebounds), Khiry White (13 points, four assists, four steals) and Kentavious Clowers (13 points, 12 rebounds and four steals).
Wright said that after the win, which snapped a two-game losing streak, his players appreciated the significance of knocking off one of the top teams in the region.
"They realized it was a quality win," Wright said. "We played a lot more disciplined (Wednesday night) than what we have been doing. And it paid off with a victory."
GSW WOMEN 95, TRUETT-MCCONNELL 41: The Georgia Southwestern Lady Hurricanes were looking to bounce back after their first loss of the season to Fort Valley State on Sunday.
And, boy, did they.
The blew out Truett-McConnell College (1-7) on Wednesday and had five players score in double figures.
Leading the GSW scorers were junior forward Jessica Jones (19 points, four rebounds), Jessica Bivins (13 points) and Tania Walters, Terra Branch and Samantha Smith, who all scored 12 points.
Smith was the only player to register a double-double as she grabbed a game-high 14 rebounds. Fellow post player Adrian Randall also tallied 11 rebounds.
After a sloppy start for GSW (7-1) in the first several minutes of the game, the Lady Hurricanes put the game away thanks to 5-of-6 shooting from beyond the arc in the first half to give GSW a 49-22 halftime lead.
Georgia Southwestern would continue to pick apart TMC to open the second half thanks to a 26-6 run in the half's first eight minutes. The Lady Hurricanes outscored the visitors 46-19 in the second half on the way to the 54-point victory.